University Senate                                                                                 

Proposed: March 4, 2011




President Lee Bollinger, the chairman, called the Senate to order in 107 Jerome Greene Hall shortly after 1:15 p.m. Fifty-one of 101 senators were present during the meeting.

Minutes and agenda:  The minutes of December 3, 2010 and the agenda were adopted as proposed.

President’s remarks.  The president announced the following good news:
--During the previous week the Capital Campaign had passed its original goal of $4 billion, about a year ahead of schedule and having come through a major recession. There was applause. The president said the campaign had recently been extended for two years, with a new goal of $5 billion.  He said it was exciting for this institution to have set a goal higher than any other university in the country except one (which had a $4.2 billion goal). The campaign results were a tribute above all to a university with a special level of commitment.

--Some major gifts were in the works.

--The new Northwest Corner building had received a wonderful architectural review in the New York Times on February 9.  The president hoped that over time the building would be a great place for research and teaching.  He said Provost Claude Steele was addressing governance issues for the new interdisciplinary building.

--The provost was also figuring out the new building’s relationship to Mind Brain Behavior, the first new Columbia building in Manhattanville, construction of which was underway. Significant fundraising progress had been made on a new School of the Arts building in Manhattanville, as well as an academic conference center that would be of enormous significance to the university, which now has no place for major meetings.  The president hoped that all three buildings could be open in five years.

Two new Business School buildings in Manhattanville, now in the planning stages, received a boost in the fall from the announcement of a $100 million gift from Henry Kravis.  Still another planned building, for the School of International and Public Affairs, was not as far along in its fundraising, but the president expressed optimism that this building would be completed in the next several years. 

Sen. Jose Robledo (Stu., GS) said the president had demonstrated great leadership on issues involving the military.  Would he be willing to attend the next two hearings on ROTC, which would be introduced by Columbia College Dean Moody-Adams and Provost Steele?
The president said he had decided not to do that because he wanted to make sure there were many opportunities for discussion without his direct involvement.  He had made a number of public statements on the subject.  He had said that the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell represented a historic opportunity to develop new relationships with the military for Columbia, after a long separation dating back at least a generation, to the late 1960s.  He said the subject now needed free and open discussion.  He worried that his presence at hearings would not have beneficial effects, though he might weigh in on ROTC later on.

Executive Committee chair's remarks.  Sen. Sharyn O’Halloran (Ten., SIPA) said the Executive Committee had been considering the following issues:
--Fringe benefits. An administration task force, of which she was a member, hoped to roll out a proposal in March for changes in fringe benefits. A few members of Faculty Affairs had been talking with the provost and other administrators about a resolution on fringe benefits that they would present later in the present meeting.

--Conflict of interest. When the Senate approved a new university policy on conflict of interest in research in April 2009, it called for a two-year review of the policy, which was now due.  A new task force was being formed, with about nine members drawn from the Medical School, the Law School, the Business School, and the Senate, to assess the implementation of the current policy, and to see whether the separate ad hoc committees appointed for Morningside and the uptown campus could manage their workload. In addition, new NIH regulations would be coming out in April, and the new review committee would need to make sure that Columbia is in compliance, and that the current policy is able to handle the full range of risks that the university faces with the variety of types of conflicts that may have arisen. 

--Smoking policy.  Sen. O'Halloran invited Sen. Mark Cohen (NT, Bus.) to speak. Sen. Cohen recalled that an amendment he had supported at the December plenary—calling for the substitution of a total smoking ban for the “20-foot” restriction then under consideration on the floor—had been tabled. But he understood that the parliamentarian would allow him now to ask for a majority vote to have his amendment “untabled” and restored to the floor for action. In light of this opportunity, and the fact that a straw vote at the last meeting had shown about as much support for a campus ban as for the 20-foot rule that the Senate enacted then, and such recent developments as a CUNY decision to ban smoking outright on all of its campuses, and New York City’s expanded ban on smoking in public spaces—in light of all that, Sen. Cohen said, he was now asking the support of the Senate to have his proposal for a smoking ban added to the agenda of the next meeting, on March 4, for action.

The president asked for guidance on the procedure.  Howard Jacobson, the parliamentarian, said he had allowed Sen. Cohen to ask the Senate to decide by majority vote whether his tabled proposal for a complete smoking ban could be restored to the agenda for action. The parliamentarian said he did not know the status of the implementation of the 20-foot rule that the Senate had enacted at the previous meeting.  He said it would be useful to have the administrator in charge of the implementation present for any Senate deliberation on this issue.

The president requested and received confirmation from the parliamentarian that such a vote was appropriate.  He said what was tabled was a specific proposal calling for a complete smoking ban on the main part of the Morningside campus, with some provision for the non-contiguous university buildings in the surrounding area.  He recalled that Sen. Cohen would ask the Tobacco Work Group to clarify the status of the non-contiguous buildings if his amendment were adopted.  Sen. Cohen corroborated this understanding.

Asked whether Sen. Cohen's motion was discussable, Mr. Jacobson said the motion should just be voted on.

A senator asked if Sen. Cohen wanted the Tobacco Work Group to make a specific recommendation.

The parliamentarian explained that if someone wants to bring back a tabled motion, it has to be restored in exactly the form it was in when it was tabled. Otherwise, it has to be introduced as new business.

The president called for a vote on Sen. Cohen's motion.  The Senate approved it by show of hands, 26-14.

            --March 25 showing of the documentary “Inside Job”  Prompted by Sen. O'Halloran, the secretary announced that the External Relations Committee was sponsoring a viewing of the documentary film “Inside Job,”about conditions that led to the global financial collapse of 2008.  The viewing would take place in 105 Jerome Greene on March 25 at 2 p.m., to be followed by a discussion at 4 p.m. that would include the film’s director, Charles Ferguson.  The secretary said the idea was to arrange an event for senators and Senate committee members, and possibly a few other invited guests, and to have a serious discussion of issues raised by the film that would include some university policymakers working on the current review of conflict of interest policy.

Committee reports
            --Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing.  Arnold Friedland, a committee member and alumnus from the Business School, gave the report. He said he had been in financial services for a dozen years before forming his own creative agency and media firm.  He joined the ACSRI committee as part of an effort to reconnect with the university.

Mr. Friedland said the ACSRI reviews the roughly 10 percent of Columbia's $6 billion endowment that is in public holdings, to see that it is invested in a socially responsible way.  The committee does its best in the time it has to make recommendations to the Trustees.

Mr. Friedland said the ACSRI committee has a specific agenda each year, which is developed from inputs from the broad Columbia University community, whom he characterized as the shareholders of this endowment fund.

Mr. Friedland said he had been surprised to learn in his four months on the committee about how influential the investment decisions of Columbia and other universities could be. In 2011 one problem the committee had focused on was cluster munitions. After studying these, the committee might make recommendations to the Trustees that might restrict or discourage investments linked to cluster munitions.

Another current focus of the ACSRI committee in 2011 was on how to improve outreach to the Columbia community.

A senator asked how transparent the committee could be and still conduct its business appropriately.  Mr. Friedland said the committee publishes its meeting minutes on its web site.  There was some discussion about whether to revise that practice.

Mr. Friedland concluded by urging senators to go the ACSRI website, and fill out an email form with any suggestions for the committee. There was applause.

            Task Force on Military Engagement. Sen. Ron Mazor (Stu., Law), a task force co-chair, said the group had held its first of three open hearings on ROTC on February 7.  It would begin a web-based survey of Columbia student bodies on February 16.  It also had an open submissions policy, inviting people to send in email, which the task force would then put online. The task force would also deliver a report to the Senate on March 4. 

Sen. Mazor thanked Sen. O’Halloran for giving opening remarks at the February 7 hearing, which had 80 attendees, mainly students.  He said the proceedings had been very civil, a kind of point/counterpoint, with people honoring the time limit of two minutes and 30 seconds per comment. Columbia College Dean Michele Moody-Adams would address the second hearing, on February 15, which would be geared towards undergraduates, though all hearings were open to any CUID holder.  Sen. Mazor said the third meeting, on February 23, to be introduced by Provost Claude Steele, would focus on faculty and graduate students.

Sen. Mazor said the goal of the task force was to make transcripts of the meetings publicly available, and it might decide also to provide sound files of each hearing.  It would summarize the content of the town halls for its March 4th report, and also include a history of ROTC issues, from the Mansfield Committee in 1968 to the present day. 

Sen. Bette Gordon (NT, Arts) said she had attended the meeting, and had found it useful.  She encouraged senators to hear what participants say directly rather than to rely solely on a later report. She had been pleased to hear articulate statements from so many students on both sides.  She also hoped for the Senate to have a full chance to discuss the issues, so that students could really learn the history. Her sense was that knowledge of the history of ROTC on campus was severely lacking, and was urgently needed to make a very important decision about ROTC. 

Sen. Mazor said the task force did have a website which reviewed the history of ROTC.
Sen. Gordon asked if there was a way to make the information on the website more tangible.
Sen. Mazor said the task force was determined not to get involved during the hearings in ruling on the validity of particular arguments or on their opinions.  He said the group saw the hearings primarily as a chance to hear student opinion, not necessarily to gather facts about the issues.

Sen. Gordon asked if there could be a print-out at the meetings, because not everyone sees the website.  Sen. O'Halloran asked if Sen. Gordon wanted a timeline of events.  Sen. Gordon said she preferred seeing major points on the history of ROTC at Columbia and at other campuses across the country.

Sen. Mazor said the task force would consider this request.

Sen. Michelle Ballan (NT, Social Work) asked if guidelines for open meetings typically refer explicitly to restraining physical outbursts.

Sen. Mazor said the task force distributed two sheets: a set of guidelines for conduct in the hearings, and some suggested themes for discussion.

Sen. Ballan expressed concern about guidelines that explicitly refer to physical outbursts.  Sen. Mazor said the task force would check on this.

Sen. Tao Tan (Stu., Bus.) said the Rules of University Conduct Governing Political Rallies and Demonstrations lay out clearly what sort of conduct is required in these public settings, and those guidelines do explicitly forbid physical outbursts.

President Bollinger said he thought such guidelines were common.

New business
Resolution to Affirm Guiding Principles for the Current Initiative to Change Fringe Benefits at Columbia (Faculty Affairs co-chairs Robert Pollack and Letty Moss-Salentijn).
Sen. Pollack (Ten., A&S/NS) said the Faculty Affairs Committee had addressed the question of whether it might contribute to the Senate’s role in the ongoing deliberation through the provost’s office on changes in the structure of the fringe benefits pool. Faculty Affairs met an important initial impediment, which was that the provost already had an advisory process in place.  Sen. Pollack said the provost had made it clear that he didn’t want to muddy that process before he had received recommendations for presentation to the campus community. But the provost did agree that the Senate might make recommendations on some guiding principles. 

So Sens. Pollack and Moss-Salentijn, with help from Prof. Paul Duby and the faculty caucuses, came up with a complex resolution which senators now had in two versions: the first version and a revised version with a few changes requested by the provost. 

Sens. Pollack and Moss-Salentijn took turns summarizing the contents of the resolution.
Sen. Pollack said only one of the “whereas” clauses required mention: “Whereas the provost has convened an advisory group to recommend new fringe benefits policies,” followed a little later by the resolution to “affirm the following principles to guide the provost’s advisory group.” The idea here was not to have the Senate go its own way, but to have it contribute to an ongoing provostial process. 

Sen. Moss-Salentijn said the main reason why Faculty Affairs was talking with the provost was that it didn't want to be a shadow committee with its own particular recommendations. But it wanted to be part of the discussion, even though it had not been kept in the loop on the deliberations.

She said the first resolved clause said that major recommendations for changes in fringe benefits should honor expectations that have been established over the course of the careers of current officers.  People who have for a number of years, in some cases decades, been planning their retirement should not at the last minute be given a radical change in expectations.  The Senate resolution recommended grandfathering of essential health, tuition and retirement benefits to the extent possible. She said everyone understood that current deliberations might lead to serious decisions, but she stressed the need to protect officers near the end of their careers.

Sen. Pollack said the second resolved clause referred to “socializing” benefits costs, meaning distributing any reductions over the larger structure, over the entire span of careers and over the entire population. 

Sen. Moss-Salentijn said the third resolved clause said that those who are least able to pay should carry a lighter burden than others.

Sen. Pollack said the next clause called on the provost's committee to provide maximal access to the range of fringe benefits going forward to every eligible officer. Sen. Pollack called this an equitable principle by which to make major changes if they are required.

Sen. Moss-Salentijn then described the last two clauses, which had been modified to meet objections from the provost.  Faculty Affairs was now presenting the revisions to the Senate as friendly amendments.  The first of these, which the committee felt strongly about, had said, “Any Columbia officer on whose position the fringe rate is assessed should be entitled to benefits.” This point had been dropped for the reason that fringe benefits are an aspect of full-time employment, in this and other major universities.  Sen. Moss-Salentijn said that while it feels right to say officers should have access to fringe benefits if the unit hiring them is paying the fringe rate on their salaries, in fact this issue becomes highly problematic in dealing with the adjunct faculty, and would make the work of the administration task force on fringe benefits considerably harder.  So the committee had agreed to drop this point.

Sen. Pollack offered a variation on Sen. Moss-Salentijn's account.  He said Faculty Affairs was not endorsing the idea that there are employees here on whose salary the fringe rate is assessed but who cannot receive benefits because they’re part-time people.  But it was confirming the current reality that benefits are allotted mainly to full-time people at major universities. Faculty Affairs was not therefore endorsing an eternal outcome, but recognizing a current one.
As for the last revision, Sen. Pollack took responsibility for the complicated grammatical rearrangement. Its point was that once the provost makes his recommendations and the Senate is drawn into discussion, decision makers should listen to representatives of the entire university population represented in the Senate, and not just Faculty Affairs.

President Bollinger offered his perspective on fringe benefits. He said Provost Steele, backed up by CUMC EVP Lee Goldman and Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin, had been conducting a working group on fringe benefits over many months.  The problem was highly complex and serious because the conditions under which current fringe benefits programs were designed have become unsustainable.  Columbia, like most peer institutions, is now obliged to face this problem. He said nobody wants to touch fringe benefits, but the problem has to be thought through carefully, with recommendations for reform. The administration task force would roll out recommendations in the next few months, with many discussions to come. With the understanding that Provost Steele had found the guiding principles in the present resolution to be consistent with those of the administration task force, the president considered them completely appropriate, and added his own endorsement.

Sen. Ron Breslow (Ten., A&S/NS) said it was essential to make sure that any changes in fringe benefits are not so drastic as to cost Columbia its competitive edge with local institutions. He noted that salaries at The Rockefeller University and NYU are close to or higher than at Columbia.  Columbia doesn’t want to lose its people to other places, he said.

Sen. Tan read a statement that the Student Affairs Committee had unanimously approved at a meeting earlier that day: “We are aware of the scale of the restructuring of fringe benefits here at Columbia, and we are aware that the restructuring now makes Columbia different from other universities in a measurable way.  We are aware of substantial needs of financing in the years and decades ahead, especially with respect to Manhattanville and undergraduate financial aid.  With all that being said, we’d like to express our unanimous support for this resolution because at Columbia compensation is a very important component of retention.  And if Columbia’s compensation package has become uncompetitive vis a vis other universities, retention will be more difficult and the quality of education for students will suffer as a result.  The quality of education is what attracts all of us to this great university.”  Sen. Tan reminded senators of the statement by a faculty luminary of the last century that faculty are not employees of this university; they are the university.

Sen. Arnold Aronson (Ten., Arts) raised the question of fringe benefits for officers who are not full time.  He recognized that fringe benefits are not available to all officers.  He asked if it would be possible to assure that the fringe rate would not be assessed on salaries of officers who are ineligible for fringe benefits.  Sen. Aronson said that for pedagogical reasons a majority of the faculty in his school are adjunct faculty on whom the fringe rate is assessed, which makes up a significant portion of the school budget.

Sen. Pollack said the fringe rate is assessed not on individual officers but on the office or school that pays their salaries.  And so the budget of a unit may be swollen by the obligation to pay fringe benefits on a salary even though the person receiving the salary may not receive the benefits attached to it. When the officer is in the sciences and on federal grants, the government charges for those fringe benefits.  Although it was possible to argue that people’s salaries would go up if there were no assessment for fringe benefits, such an arrangement might not be legal. 

Sen. Soulaymane Kachani (NT, SEAS) said an important reason why the fringe rate was assessed on salaries of officers who receive no fringe benefits was to avoid the perverse incentive of further encouraging the practice of hiring adjunct faculty without providing benefits.

The president urged Sen. Aronson to send him an email on this point, so he could send it on to Provost Steele to include in current deliberations of the administration task force.

Sen. Samuel Silverstein (Ten., P&S) cited postdoctoral researchers as a group whose salaries are assessed for more than they receive in fringe benefits.  He said that this may be part of some equitable overall distribution of the fringe pool.  But he said it remained true that a large group at the university is disenfranchised in one way or another. 

Sen. Consuelo Mora-McLaughlin (Admin. Staff, CUMC) asked how to reconcile the resolution’s principle, in resolved clause #2, of socializing the burden of increased benefits costs to the maximum extent possible, with the ideas in clause #1 of giving special consideration to officers with seniority and close to retirement and in clause #5 of focusing reductions of benefits on new officers.  

Sen. Pollack said he and Sen. Moss-Salentijn and their colleagues shared the view that assurances made to faculty decades ago about what their lives would be like if they were lifers should be protected.  The promise will be different now for those on the way in, and as Sen. Breslow had pointed out, a person may choose not to come if the promise is not good enough.  Sen. Pollack distinguished the principle of keeping one’s word from the principle of equality.  He said he was interested to see how offers would look under Columbia’s new fringe benefits. But he laid special stress on the question of whether promises made in the past would be kept. Failure to do that would be a communal disaster, he said. If the university couldn’t be trusted on this point, how could it be trusted at all?

Sen. Mora-McLaughlin agreed with the last point.

Sen. Pollack said the market issue that Sen. Breslow had stated would amount to the question of whether, when the current round of benefits reductions is complete, Columbia will have enough left to promise new faculty.  Columbia will learn then whether it is still competitive in spite of the promises to people already here.

Prof. Paul Duby said that with people living longer, they would need health benefits longer, along with more money in their retirement accounts, and benefits would have to be increased in the future.  He said the university would have to plan accordingly. 

Prof. Duby also added to Sen. Breslow’s comments that Columbia must compete not only with local institutions like NYU, but also with institutions in other cities where the cost of living is 10 percent cheaper.  Sen. Duby said he had only anecdotal evidence of this, and had asked the provost to share data that the consultant had undoubtedly collected on this issue.  But his sense was that Columbia was not at the top in total compensation, and was already having trouble with recruitment. He knew of faculty recruits who did not come to Columbia because of their children or other costs of supporting their family that were too high in New York, and of other faculty who were leaving for similar reasons.

Sen. Breslow mentioned the case of a professor being recruited from Yale, who decided he couldn’t come because of the taxes in the New York area.  

Sen. O’Halloran said it was well understood on the administration task force that fringe benefits are a strategic tool for recruitment.

At the president’s suggestion, the Senate proceeded to a vote. By voice vote, it approved the resolution unanimously.

The president adjourned the meeting at about 2:25 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,


Tom Mathewson, Senate staff